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Side Story 1[B]
As they arrived at the place where the Academy had once stood, Vernell looked at the sky, reminded of sweet and bitter memories.
His once unreliable face during his student period had now completely lost its naivety, becoming the face of a warrior.
His remaining eye turned sharp, like a bird of prey’s, and various scars ran all over his body.
His right cheek had a trace where it was torn apart and forcibly sewn over, leaving a painful suture mark.
On top of his tattered armor, he wore a cloak that was reduced into a tattered cloth, and he carried a greatsword on his back.
His body had also grown now, reaching a total height of around 190 centimeters1.
“Vernell… you still want to fight?”
Mary, his sole surviving comrade, grabbed at Vernell’s cloak and asked him this.
It was she who devotedly treated Vernell after he lost the battle against the “Witch” and saved him from the brink of death.
When Vernell woke up, she asked him to live together with her somewhere faraway, where that monster couldn’t reach them.
Vernell was happy with her suggestion.
For him, who had already lost everything, to still have a person who worried about him… such a fact almost made him tear up.
However, he had already lost far too much to accept such a suggestion… more than anything, the flame of hatred inside of him wouldn’t allow him to stop.
He was well aware that there was no chance of victory if he directly challenged the “Witch.”
He was also aware that the best thing they could have done was to keep moving to the places where the “Witch” had not passed through and try to live on for as long as they could.
However, he couldn’t do it.
His friends, his teachers, his comrades, and his beloved woman… after all the things that monster had robbed from him, he couldn’t make himself forgive it. Everything he had treated as precious was trampled on and thrown away, and Vernell wasn’t a flexible enough person to be able to ignore all that and live on.
That was why he chose to fight. It wasn’t a matter of winning or losing; it was just all that he had left.
The desire for revenge. That was the sole thing that barely supported the current Vernell, who was about to break.
Vernell replied with a low-pitched voice that was akin to the growl of a hungry beast.
The flame of hatred was burning in his eye, revealing almost no trace of his former, kind, young self.
“Let’s… stop it already, please? There’s nobody who could win against that…”
Vernell had been challenging the “Witch” many times since he managed to survive the first battle.
He gathered information on the sightings of the “Witch,” predicting the course it would move onward, and then moved ahead of it and to fight it.
He has already repeated such a process five times.
And he was easily defeated each time, but then was ignored without being dealt with.
Every time it happened, the scars in Vernell’s body increased, making him even more battered.
He was much stronger than when he’d been a student. He also could use the power of the Witch that his former self couldn’t.
Even so, it was still not enough. It was not even a fight.
Mary couldn’t endure such things anymore.
“…I had a dream.”
“Aah. It was about the time when we thought we could still work it out. When everyone was still there… Eterna was still there… Then, every last one of them was burning in flames. Regardless of how I held out my hand to save them, it always failed to reach them. Everyone then turned into ashes in front of my eyes… then I would wake up. Every time it happened, an unreasonable anger and hatred, but also helplessness would strike me… those things have messed me up and I can’t help but take action.”
As he talked, Mary could tell Vernell was clenching his fist with a lot of strength.
“I’ll kill it… I have to kill it! As I am reminded of that thing still laughing and wandering about even now, the anger is driving me insane! Kill! Kill! I don’t give a damn about the chance of victory. I’ll kill it, no matter what it takes!”
Mary’s shoulders shook before the hatred that Vernell was spewing.
There was no chance of victory, no matter how many times he challenged it.
Even so, he would still challenge it. Until the moment his life ended.
It was painful thing to watch, and it made Mary look down and bite her lips.
But suddenly, Vernell lifted his face as he pulled out the sword on his back.
“We have guests coming. It seems that the ‘Witch’ is nearby.”
Vernell unleashed his aura as he looked around.
At the same time, from the gap of the trees, several… nay, dozens of demons appeared.
They were the monsters that once attacked the world alongside Witch Alexia. Currently, they were attacking people in accordance with the will of the “Witch.”
If the “Witch” came near, the nearby animals would likely turn into demons. Even the strongest demons under Alexia… a “Greater Demon” could spawn.
In other words, whenever there were many strong demons, it meant that the “Witch” was close.
Vernell roared as he swung his greatsword.
All the demons jumped away all at once, but the Minotaur, which didn’t make it in time, was cut in two and fell to the ground.
The greatsword in Vernell’s hand had a blade length of over a meter and a half. If the hilt was included, it would be taller than Vernell himself2.
This weapon, which a common warrior would have a hard time even to lift, was swung easily by his sole remaining arm3.
However, he wasn’t merely swinging it. The speed of the sword itself was frighteningly fast, with normal people barely able to catch its afterimage.
The blade that swung forward was swung backward this time, halving demons without even giving them the chance to land.
Mary stood behind Vernell as she focused her mana, then she raised her wand.
Then several demons were frozen at the same time, which was followed by a swing of Vernell’s blade that shattered those demons into tiny shards.
All of these demons were at least quasi-Greater Demons — collections of monsters that needed several knights to be fought against properly, if it was the world before the fall. The fact they defeated several of them with just the two of them would have been a great accomplishment.
However, in the current world, such kinds of demons were everywhere; nothing would change just by defeating a few of them.
Flying wyverns spat fire as they flew above them, and a human-faced lion whipped its tail and shot its venomous spines.
A rock giant swung the iron mallet in its hand, and a multi-headed snake approached and tried to bite them with its poisonous fangs.
Vernell and Mary intercepted all these attacks, while covering for each other. But as they defeated a demon, another demon would rush to replace it, and they were forced to fight continuously with no time to recover.
“There’s no end to this… Mary, you should run away.”
“No… we’ll die together…!”
The “Witch” kept creating demons that were incomparably stronger than what Alexia had made.
The current world was filled with demons of quasi-Greater Demon level that were comparable to natural Greater Demons; and these Greater Demons could turn the world on which they walked into a living hell.
No place was safe in this world. And as time passed, even more demons would be spawned, driving humanity to the brink of extinction.
Regarding the number of demons, it was still manageable back then.
However, what about now? They kept spawning to no end. Demons were everywhere, regardless of where you went or looked.
A giant scorpion spewed out poisonous gas from a distance.
Regardless of how he swung his greatsword to prevent enemies from closing in, he couldn’t completely block gas.
He might be able to repel it to some extent by using sword aura, but some poison would still inevitably reach them.
Mary coughed hard, and Vernell also felt his body getting heavier.
“Don’t… underestimate meeee!”
Vernell grit his teeth as he slammed his sword.
This one attack cut the said scorpion in two, but because he moved forward to do so, his cooperation with Mary was broken.
As Vernell left, Mary’s defense became weaker, and a bear monster attacked that opening, as if waiting for that moment.
Even as he stabbed the bear with his greatsword immediately, there was a wolf demon that attacked Vernell from behind this time.
He managed to turn around quickly, but he failed to retaliate in time.
His shoulder got bitten, and Vernell had to throw himself on a nearby tree to knock the wolf demon off.
However, the damage he received was not light. The fact that his right shoulder, which was the side his remaining arm was on, got bitten only made matters worse.
Vernell and Mary were gradually cornered, with the word “defeat” engraved in their minds.
“Like hell… I’ll let it end this waaaayyyyy!”
Vernell bore the shame of surviving just for the sake of slaying the “Witch.”
There was nothing left for him to protect in this world, but he still persisted in living just for the chance to pierce his blade into that monster. He wished to carve the pain of losing his comrades into that monster, even if it was merely on a tenth or even a hundredth of it.
However, he definitely wouldn’t accept dying this way. Like hell he would allow himself this kind of end.
He moved his battered body through sheer willpower to cut down the demons one after another.
However, they couldn’t make up the difference in numbers, and Mary finally fell to her knees.
In addition to the poisonous gas from earlier, she was also exhausted.
Her complexion was pale, and she felt she might lose her consciousness at any moment.
Obviously, there was no way for the demons to ignore the opening created at such a moment.
They all jumped together at them, and Vernell embraced Mary to use his own body as a shield to protect her.
“Aurea Libertas [Golden Freedom]”
There was a clear voice that echoed from someone.
It was a voice he shouldn’t have ever heard before, but for some reason, Vernell thought he had heard this voice before somewhere.
Along with the voice, several flashes of golden light started raining from the sky, hitting all the demons in the area accurately and without exception, completely obliterating them.
The light didn’t care about how strong or fast the demons were, as they were punished by it equally and obliterated all the same, leaving only silence behind.
“It can’t be… is this a miracle…?”
Vernell’s throat shook at the unexpected scene.
He couldn’t believe what happened in front of his eyes. His brain couldn’t keep up with the course of events.
Light that rained from the sky and annihilated the demons… such a thing, such a miracle, who could have believed it?
However, it was without a doubt the reality that happened in front of him, and the one who caused such a feat descended in front of Vernell.
She had long hair that glimmered, as if it was made out of gold.
She had clear, white skin and an amazing beauty as he saw her face when she turned around.
The white one-piece she wore, which had a fluffy skirt, enhanced the charm she had.
As Vernell saw her, he seriously thought a goddess descended.
There was a blond-haired woman who wore a white dress among Vernell’s acquaintances, and that was the fake Saint Elrise (the lesser than feces filth), which reminded him of her, but that person wasn’t even worth comparing with the girl in front of him.
As she waved her palm in front of Vernell, the venom inside Vernell’s body was gone in the next instant, along with all the wounds he suffered during earlier battle.
“Are you alright?”
The girl smiled at him as she asked this, but Vernell was unable to reply immediately.
It was the same with Mary. That was how much this girl’s existence was detached from reality.
They thought they were already dead, and what they were currently seeing was a good dream during their dying moments. Such was their suspicions.
That was how absurd it was. Was it possible for this kind of existence, that was completely unheard of by anyone in the world beforehand, to be right in front of them?
If such a person existed, then why were there no rumors about her? Where had this girl been all this time? What had she been doing then?
The more they thought of it, the less they believed that the girl in front of them was real.
“A, are… you… a god?”
Vernell couldn’t help but speak his thoughts out loud.
At the very least, she was not the Saint.
There could only be one Saint per generation, and the Saint of the present generation was Eterna.
There might be a new Saint born somewhere after Eterna died, but she must still be a baby… that was only if she managed to survive somehow, in this world which was akin to a hell, without any knights to protect her.
However, it was even more unlikely for her to be a commoner. Like hell such a commoner could exist.
Therefore, Vernell could only think that the girl was a goddess who descended to save the world, or something similar.
She possessed enough power to make such thought a possibility.
However, she responded to Vernell’s question with a slight smile and denial.
“No, I’m not. I am not that great of a person. It’s just that I saw how you two fought… I just couldn’t leave you two alone and ended up coming to help. I’m just a common busybody.”
Unfortunately, they weren’t convinced by her claim as a common busybody.
However, Vernell swallowed such thoughts.
Regardless of her circumstances, she was still their savior, without a doubt.
In that case, what he ought to say shouldn’t be unscrupulous pursuit of her identity or finding out her purpose, but gratitude instead.
“I see… Sorry about that, and thank you. It might have been dangerous if you hadn’t come to help us. My name is Vernell, and she is Mary… we are on a journey to get rid of that asshole ‘Witch’. If it’s okay, I’d like to know the name of our savior.”
He bowed his head deeply and said his gratitude.
Then he asked for her name.
Even in this world of despair, there were still people who could do this kind of thing.
Vernell held hope for that, and he wished to know the name of such a person.
Then the girl’s gaze wandered about, as if she was troubled on how to answer, and finally looked straight at Vernell as she came to a decision.
Then, she gave an outrageous reply.
“My name is — Elrise.” — The atmosphere instantly became cold.
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